Information

Social Security Experience Panels - Seldom Heard research programme: carers and care experienced

This report presents the main findings of the first wave of research with carers and care experienced people as part of the ‘Seldom Heard Voices’ research programme.

This document is part of a collection


What’s next?

The chart below summarises the barriers that carers and care experienced people faced, the corresponding enablers and suggested improvements and sets out the action Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland will undertake (or has already undertaken) to address these barriers.

Barriers

Lack of knowledge of the benefit system

Action

A general duty to promote the take-up of devolved benefits is enshrined in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. Social Security Scotland and the Scottish Government to date have published two take-up strategies that set out all the activity and engagement being undertaken to ensure awareness of benefits improves.

Social Security Scotland will build on these findings by carrying out further research to identify and explore how best to communicate and market benefits to hard-to-reach and marginalised groups. The results of this research will be used to develop bespoke communication and engagement plans to support communication activity.

The findings from this research have been fed into the consideration to implement a joined-up approach to improve access to information and support, and the importance of providing a range of communication options, in the work to develop Scottish Carer’s Assistance, the Scottish replacement benefit for Carers Allowance. The intention is for the new benefit to reach more carers, and help carers find out about the wider support which is available to them.

Barriers

Challenges with access to the benefit system online

Enablers

Multi-channel access to get information, apply for benefits and to find guidance

Preferences for face to face service and importance of home visits for some groups

Action

For the benefits that have been and will be devolved to Scotland Social Security Scotland will offer a range of ways to apply for the benefits they deliver including online, telephone, paper-based or face-to-face. Further applicants will be offered support when applying for disability benefits. This multi-channel approach will ensure that those who cannot or choose not to adopt digital methods will not become isolated through technology.

The findings on the preference for face-to-face support will be fed into the development of the Local Delivery service in local communities across Scotland. This service will be person-centred by providing local presence to meet people’s needs in key locations where clients currently attend. Local delivery staff will provide pre-application advice and support to encourage people to take up the payments they are entitled to.

Barriers

Difficulty finding information

Enablers

Consistent, comprehensive and streamlined information

Action

Social Security Scotland has introduced inclusive communication approaches in all its work working towards clear and accessible information, and a clear and transparent explanation of the eligibility criteria for each application form.

Barriers

Stigma and distrust from official channels

Enablers

Knowledgeable and empathetic staff

Action

Social Security Scotland and Scottish Government have gone to great lengths to ensure that fairness, dignity and respect are embedded in the new system. Our Charter was co-designed to ensure that what a good system looks like is set out in full. This system includes the need for staff to be knowledgeable and empathetic. The Charter Measurement Framework (also co-designed) monitors and reports on a yearly basis the progress being made against the Charter.

Barriers

Complexity of the application forms (prescriptive, complex and long)

Enablers

Application forms should be plain English and shorter and designed with more flexibility

Action

Social Security Scotland has introduced inclusive communication approaches in all its work including application processes, all systems and client/staff interaction.

Further, the design of forms and application processes are undertaken in collaboration with people with lived experience of the benefit being devolved.

Social Security Scotland has provided telephone and online services to advise clients on each aspect of the application processes.

Barriers

Challenges with health assessments (restrictive and unable to capture fluctuating and chronic conditions)

Enablers

Assessments and renewals carried out by medical professionals. Reconsider frequency of assessments (for people with long-term health conditions unlikely to change) Medical evidence to weigh heavier for health assessments and award decisions

Action

These suggestions are aligned with the approach to supporting information being implemented by Social Security Scotland. This approach will consider using supporting information from the medical profession.

Barriers

Financial hardship due to long waiting times, changing benefits and overpayments

Enablers

Reduce waiting times between application and payment

More flexibility to pay back overpayment, loans and advance payments

Action

Scottish Government is working with internal and external stakeholders to develop an Overpayments Policy that balances the need to treat people with dignity, fairness and respect alongside the Government’s wider responsibilities to demonstrate responsible administration of public funds. One of the key principles of the overarching Overpayments Policy is that no individual will be knowingly pushed into hardship as a result of repayment. To achieve this principle, work is currently ongoing to develop a Hardship Policy, processes and guidance that is flexible enough to take into account the full circumstances, as far as they are known, of an individual to ensure they are fully supported in coming to an agreement on the best method of repaying their debt.

Universal Credit is reserved to the UK Government, and as such Scottish Ministers do not have the required powers to affect delays in processing applications and getting first payments out to claimants. However, we have written to the UK Government on several occasions specifically to ask them to scrap the 5-week wait for a first payment of Universal Credit, amongst other much needed improvements, including replacing advance payments with non-repayable grants.

We will continue to call on the UK Government to act on these recommendations.

Enablers

Storing information and evidence

Action

Storing information from clients to prevent duplication is addressed by a new practice to gather information. This practice will focus on Social Security Scotland being able to proactively store information from the client since the start of application when that is possible. This will reduce the burden on the applicant.

Enablers

Key role of third sector organisations (for information, advice and support)

Action

Scottish Government has published two take-up strategies that include engaging with advocacy organisations to address barriers to benefit take-up. The findings from this research will inform a targeted approach with these specific groups for the implementation of interventions committed to in the Benefit take-up Strategy.

The findings from this research will be used to inform stakeholder engagement which communicates changes on Social Security Scotland benefits. Activities include workshops which bring together a wide range of organisations. These workshops involve various teams across Social Security Scotland working with third sector organisations. This engagement will help organisations to provide relevant and accurate information on benefits and their eligibility to their clients.

Further to the next steps outlined above, Social Security Scotland will also undertake a full assessment of the impacts and corresponding actions required as part of their business planning and prioritisation process.

The Scottish Government is doing further research with Seldom Heard voices.

Blake Stevenson is doing a second wave of fieldwork with carers and care experienced groups. We will publish the findings in 2022. Participants are being recruited through national and local third sector organisations, including governing bodies and umbrella organisations for the sectors who work with carers and care experienced people.

Contact

Email: Socialresearch@gov.scot

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